Ever since the enactment of the First Amendments to the constitution, Americans have long been assured of the freedom of speech as stipulated in the constitutions. However, most Americans believe and accept that there are some limitations or boundaries associated with the freedom of speech. However, such limitations are controversial and sparked with varying debates. For instance, people have been interested in the impact of the First Amendment to the constitution which was seen as a threat to absolute freedom of speech. This is because it seeks to ensure tight control and censorship to the conduct and expression of the American citizens. While the truth lies between absolute freedom and tight control and censorship over the general population, what is significant is the rationale over which the decision is reached in depicting an individual to have violated the constitutional amendment.
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Sylvan Barnes and Hugo Bedau in their edited book, Critical Issues and Enduring Questions, apart from citing entire text of the First Amendment to the Constitution, give two opposing viewpoints from that of the Casebook for Critical Reading on censoring pornography speech. This book is not only insightful in providing effective persuasive writing and critical thinking, but it also raises the philosophical questions on how free the will of an individual is especially regarding reproductive rights. The write up thus, summarizes, compares, and contrasts the authors’ view regarding free speech, and the Constitution. It also discusses whether there is a situation in which one’s freedom of speech should be restricted.
Analyzing Arguments on Pornography and Free Speech
While freedom of speech is seen to be protected by the First Amendment of the Constitution, the arguments presented by Barnet and Bedau tend to differ sparingly on the use of constitutional amendment in censoring pornographic materials. They observe that from the historical times, the government has tried to regulate materials perceived as obscene and offensive. However, such regulations as depicted by the authors lack distinct definition regarding pornographic materials. As noted by Brownmiller (43), there is no distinct manner over which materials can be defined as either obscene or offensive as various images can only be illustrated by individual’s mind as being pornographic in nature. She believes that equating the freedom of exchange of ideas with commercial exploitations of obscene materials is against the concept of freedom stipulated in the First Amendment. According to her, using the law to censor pornographic material tends to restrict the expression of ideas and conduct thereby violating essential human rights.
However, Brownmiller (43) notes that free speech should not involve incorporating demeaning immoral materials that downgrade the freedom of women in the society. She notes that incorporating limiting laws that regulate pornographic materials and speech in the Constitution misuse the great gratitude and concept of free speech, especially among the women. However, she believes that it is pointless to talk about the inclusion of a limiting law against pornographic material within the constitution as all free speeches are protected under the First Amendments of the Constitution.
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On her first encounter, Jacoby (57) views pornographic speech as not protected by the First Amendments. This is based on her agitation that the Constitution created a system to judge the content of pornographic material. She alludes on how the system as created by the law is not only confusing but subjective concerning the nakedness of the female body. According to her, feminists are not angry about displaying naked female body since some of these portraits serve as educational sources to them. She, however, notes that they tend to be disturbed by pornographic images where the law present such images as humiliating, degrading as well as dehumanizing the female body as only serving the purpose of stimulation and pleasure (p.57).
On the other hand, Barnet and Bedau (57) believe that the concept of obscenity or offensiveness of pornographic material and free speech comes from people’s minds but not the media that freely uses it for business. According to them, the effort to use the First Amendment in banning pornography bars essential distinctions between an individual’s expression of ideas and conduct. Jacoby notes that the control of abuse should be the main concern of the First Amendments in pointing out the difference between pictorial art and educational content from trashy obscene materials. To them, it is only through the personal opinion that a material can be depicted as either obscene or offensive.
Even though, Barnet and Bedau present different viewpoints on pornography and Constitution in stipulating free speech, they tend to use similar writing techniques in illustrating their points. In both cases, the authors base their arguments on the activism of American Nazi group on the legitimacy of the obscenity of pornographic materials. Barnet and Bedau note that the group’s argument against incorporating pornographic freedom into the constitution as pointed out by Brownmiller is legitimate since “even the American Nazi Party,” was also a beneficiary from such civil liberation. Consequently, they talk about Jacoby’s Neo-Nazis feminists who believed in the importance of understanding the offensiveness of pornographic material in depicting the freedom of women.
Additionally, both the authors use counter-arguments in persuading the reader into understanding the concept of feminists’ freedom of speech. Barnet and Bedau (53), as illustrated by Brownmiller, counter the perception that feminists do not want their naked bodies to be displayed at all. According to them, some pictorial images of naked women are fine and it is only the existence of obscene material that makes such feminists images to be hated. On the other hand, Fish (54) points out that the issue of feminist freedom is not about kiddie porn, but is rather a personal issue which adversely affects freedom of speech and expression.
While both the authors use outside sources such as media statistics and historical court cases, what is significant is whether the freedom of the press can influence people or vice verse. If this is so, then the images being portrayed by the media may make people be obsessed and think about things such as rape which they eventually do. However, when such attentions are averted, then the First Amendment of the Constitution would be required as it states that, “Congress shall make no law prohibiting the free exercise or bridging the freedom of speech or of the press,” (Barnet and Bedau, 53). Therefore, the First Amendment seems to protect all free speeches with an exception on an individual making absolute understanding on the influence of media on people. This is because, if the pornographic material is censored, it will arouse public attention thereby making it more popular in the society.
Based on the presented arguments, I believe that pornography normally demean the female body, especially where the law stipulate so. In the process of inhibiting pornographic images, the female body is usually dehumanized thereby denoting them as only being used by men for desire and pleasure. While some feminists are fine with their naked bodies bring displayed, what is essential is whether such portrayal in excising freedom of expression and speech show respect to their body.
The presentation on the two varying viewpoints denotes free speech as an issue which will be debated continuously. Even though, both the authors’ arguments can be said to valid, I can only agree with them to an extent. I do agree that the existence of pornographic material and debate has adversely changed the manner in which our society is established. Therefore, the concept of abuse due to the display of pornographic material cannot be effectively controlled, but rather require personal understanding in enhancing the freedom of women. Moreover, the First Amendment as stipulated in the Constitution does not hinder the freedom of speech, but rather it is the individual’s opinion and belief that affects the ability to enhance freedom of speech and expression.
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